Czech TV in turmoil

Legislature may take reins from director

PRAGUE — Thousands of Czechs are expected to take to the streets today demanding the resignation of Jiri Hodac, the new boss of pubcaster Czech Television.

The main protest will center on Wenceslas Square, in a repeat of last week’s mass demonstration, but other cities are expected to join in.

On Tuesday, Culture Minister Pavel Dostal said Parliament may assume temporary control of the pubcaster as Hodac continued to defy demands for his resignation. Dostal was offered the post but refused it, taking the crisis into its third week.

Parliament will also considering dissolving the Czech Television Council after it failed to sack Hodac as requested by the lower house of the legislature.

In a dramatic move Tuesday evening, the small team still loyal to the previous Czech TV director admitted it could no longer keep up news broadcasts.

Late-evening viewers saw an agitated chief editor Jana Bobosikova, filming from what appeared to be a living room, announce the end of their official broadcasts.

The team has been forced out of a succession of indie studios it has hired around Prague since 40 rebel reporters barricaded the station’s newsroom Dec. 23 in protest of Hodac’s alleged political bias.

The rebels have been beaming news flashes by satellite after the new director blocked terrestrial broadcasts.

The rebels’ cause has gained mass public support at home and from journalist organizations abroad.

Hodac, a former BBC man who denies political bias, spent several days in the hospital after collapsing at his home last week, apparently from exhaustion. He has since been released.

Czech TV Council members said they refused to dismiss him until he was well enough to talk to them. But that could change with the governing Social Democratic Party’s push to get Parliament directly involved.

Dostal said his party will propose changes in a Czech Television law scheduled for discussion in the lower chamber Friday. Under the proposed amendment, the lower chamber would assume the supervisory body’s powers until new officials are elected and would appoint the station’s interim director, Dostal said.

He expects all parties to vote in favor of his proposal except for the Civic Democratic Party, which continues to support Hodac.

(Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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